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Israeli commandos used ‘shoot to kill’ policy in high seas

June 27, 2010 1 comment

Issue 254, Friday 25 June 2010 – 12 Rajab 1431

Israeli commandos used ‘shoot to kill’ policy in high seas

By Elham Asaad Buaras


Dr Hasan Uysal assisted by IHH member Murat Akinan treating an Israeli commando (left) protestor displays photo of one of the aid worker killed by Israeli forces (right) injured Turkish aid workers return home. (R-bottom) Israeli commandos aim their weapons on aid workers

The Israeli Government is facing mounting international pressure to lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip following the killing of 9 Turkish humanitarian aid workers by Israeli commandos in international waters.

The six aid flotillas, carrying 663 aid civilians from 37 countries were attempting to deliver the much needed aid and break the 3 year Israeli blockade affecting 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.

Most of the passengers were Turkish, but it also included aid workers from the US, Belgium, Britain, Germany, Malaysia, Algeria and elsewhere.

Israeli commandos boarded all the ships, however on the lead ship, MV Mavi Marmara, 9 aid workers were killed; 48 were injured and 6 are still missing.

The Israeli forces’ aim was to prevent the aid from reaching the impoverished people in Gaza. However, renowned Swedish author Henning Mankell, 62, who was on board the MV Mavi Marmara said the Israeli navy had no right to demand a change of course.

“We were in international waters this was an act of pure piracy and taking our ships to Israel was kidnapping.

“If they really wanted to stop us, why did they not wait until we were close to their territorial waters, and say ‘You can’t go any further’?”
He added that Israel could have used less confrontational methods: “They could have very quickly taken out the rudder and the propeller of our ship. We would have been stuck. No one would have been hurt.”

The sequence of events is disputed. Passengers insist the Israelis opened fire before boarding, while Israelis say that they started firing after their soldiers were ambushed as they were landing on to the ship from the helicopters, and have released a video that shows events of the landing to back up their assertion.

However, aid workers maintained ‘selective’ footage was released by the Israeli officials and they also rubbished Israel’s claim of measured self defense. The autopsies of the victims revealed they were shot a total of 30 times; 5 were killed by gunshots to the head.

Ibrahim Bilgen, 60, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back. Fulkan Dogan, 19, who also has US citizenship, was shot five times from less that 45cm, in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back. Two other men were shot 4 times, and 5 of the victims were shot either in the back of the head or in the back, according to Chair of the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK), Haluk İnce, who carried out the autopsies.

An unnamed Israeli staff-sergeant in the Shayetet 13 Naval Special Forces unit told the Jerusalem Post he was immediately attacked when he reached the deck from a helicopter. He said he had not expected to find a “battlefield”.

However, British-born Al-Jazeera Producer, Jamal Elshayyal, said violence erupted when the Israelis opened fire before landing.

“One man was shot in the top of the head from the helicopter. He collapsed on the ground. I snatched a microphone from one of the Turkish reporters to say one man had been killed. As I did that another man was shot. Those people died instantly,”
Israeli commandos’ statements were refuted by all the aid workers on board including journalists, NGO members and even a former ambassador.

UK-based Friends of al-Aqsa Chair, Ismail Patel, who witnessed some of the fatal shootings, told The Muslim News Israel had operated a “shoot to kill policy”.

Patel who is British, calculated that during the altercations, Israeli commandos shot one person every minute. One man was fatally shot in the back of the head just two feet in front him and another was shot once between the eyes.

He added that as well as the fatally wounded, 48 others were suffering from gunshot wounds.

Patel said the deaths were avoidable. “We condemn the cold blooded murder” committed by the Israeli commandos, he said.

The Israelis attacked the ships using sound bombs, tear gas bombs, stun grenades, rubber bullets and live ammunitions at dawn just after fajr (morning) prayers at 4.30am on May 30.

Another British Citizen, Alex Harrison, who was on the smaller US flagship, Challenger ship, told The Muslim News when the Israelis approached their boat, they used sound bombs, fired at them with rubber bullets, and

“we were treated with violence immediately. Women were thrown brutally around, our windows broken and we were thrown face down onto the broken glass.”

Their hands were tied with plastic clips and

“two women were hooded, they had their eyes taped.”

“We did not use violence.”

Harrison, 32, from Islington, North London, also challenged claims by the Israeli navy that their commandos were acting in self-defense once on board, insisting the Israelis started firing before their troops touched down on the boat from the helicopters as she witnesses from her boat.

“I’ve seen some selective footage that the Israelis have chosen to put out suggesting that we responded with violence,” she said. “You must remember that these were unarmed civilians on their own boat in the middle of the Mediterranean. People picked up what they could to defend themselves against armed, masked commandos who were shooting. The violence was initiated by the Israelis on a massive scale”.

Both Harrison and Patel slammed the British authorities for failing to assist while they were imprisoned in Be’er Sheva in Israel. Patel said he was not visited and Harrison said the consul told her that Israeli officials had prevented him visiting captured Britons.
Harrison said the British Consul told her that he had been sitting outside the prison all day asking for access and not been given it. “I see that as an insult from Israel to the British that they were denying the British consul the right that citizens have. I also see it as a sign that the British don’t have the strength to stand up to Israel.”

The information about the manner and intensity of the killings undermines Israel’s insistence that its soldiers opened fire only in self defence and in response to attacks by the passengers.

Passengers admitted fighting with the Israeli commandos and wresting away their guns, but defended their actions as self-defense saying the soldiers had opened live fire indiscriminately, but it was they who measured their reaction.

Former US marine Ken O’Keefe, who was on the MV Mavi Marmara, told Turkish and Israeli newspapers that he had helped disarm the commandos,

“The lives of the three commandos were at our mercy, we could have done with them whatever we wanted.”

The passengers also highlighted the fact that none of the Israeli commandos captured were killed, on the contrary, images released show the wounded Israeli’s being treated by the passengers.

Guns that were taken from the officers were emptied from their bullets and returned to them.

They also say the Israeli authorities confiscated their video equipment cameras and erased memory cards, which would have backed their version of events.

The Foreign Press Association have strongly condemned Israeli military’s use of photos and video material confiscated from foreign journalists.

New York-based Serbian cameraman, Srdjan Stojiljković, said Arab aid workers suffered “far worse treatment than us, from Europe or the West,” adding he had filmed the scenes, but the Israelis “took everything but documents” from journalists.

Retired American army colonel and former US Diplomat Ann Wright said, “They’ve probably stolen over a million dollars’ worth of cameras, computers, cell phones.”

“One woman was hit in the face, in the nose, with one of the liquid-filled balls [The Israelis] were very excessively rough, excessively forceful,”

Canadian citizen Kevin Neish said a Turkish man, who was holding a camera

“was shot directly through the forehead. The bullet, the exit wound, blew away the back third of his skull.”

Free Gaza Movement, (who organized the flotilla) rep on Mavi Marmara, Lubna Masarwa, said the Israeli navy had also refused calls for immediate aid to the seriously wounded:

“We were then held for several hours with four bodies and dozens of wounded some in critical condition. Blood was pouring from the bodies of the dead and the injured.
“One Turkish woman was crying and saying goodbye to the body of her dead husband, petting his face and reading the Qur’an over him. Another man had a bullet wound in his head and was dying.
“From 5am on, we were begging the Israeli navy to provide medical assistance to the wounded and dying but received no response.
“We made the request in English and Hebrew through the loud speaker and also wrote a large paper that said, ‘SOS, people dying, in need of immediate medical attention’ in Hebrew and put it on the window in front of them. They ordered the people with the sign to get lost,”

The convoy members insisted they had behaved more humanely and had given medical help to the commandos when they still had control of the flotilla.

Images of the disarmed commando being treated by Dr Hasan Huseyin Uysal along with other photo taken show bloodied and disarmed commandos in the custody of passengers inside the ship contradict Israeli suggestions that the aim of the passengers was to kill the soldiers.

Dr Uysal said that he had treated three Israeli commandos and argued that this proved that the passengers had no intention of killing them:

“First of all it’s illogical that these soldiers would not be killed but instead be taken to the medical center if the intention of the activists was to kill them. If people on board were so eager to hurt them, why would they not just shoot them to death once they had taken their guns? Why bother carting them inside for treatment? It just doesn’t add up.”

Despite claims by Israel Officials that the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) members had initiated the violence, Murat Akinan, the man seen standing next to Dr Uysal in the photos of him treating a commando said that the captured soldier had been entrusted to him by IHH Director, Bulent Yildirim, who instructed him to

“make sure that he’ll be safe. Be careful, don’t allow anyone to touch him.”

Dundee, Scotland, student Ali El-Awaisi, 21, was held in Be’er Sheva jail in Israel for 3 days after spending 12 hours on the captured boat. He said: “What happened on the boat was just horrific. Israeli soldiers were shooting people in the head from point-blank range.

“The walls of the ship were like waterfalls of blood and there were guys shot in front of my eyes.
“One Turkish man was shot between the eyes with a handgun from a few feet away, and when we docked in Ashdod the Israelis left his body in the sun for several days and then took photos of his decomposed corpse and gave them to his wife who was on the flotilla as well.”

He said those once they were captured,

“We were tortured. We had to kneel down with our hands tied behind our back for 12 hours under the sun and the soldiers would hit you with the rifle butts if you moved.”

Two of the aid workers detained by the Israeli forces have accused Israeli officers of using their credit cards.

Former US nurse and aid worker Kathy Sheetz has provided bank statements proving her bank card, taken by the Israeli forces during the attack, has since been used in Tel Aviv.

“It looks as though they tried to use it without the PIN code and could not, but they could use it in a vending machine and had multiple accesses to my card to buy beer, according to the statement,” Sheetz said.

“What it means is that I witnessed the Israeli Navy going and killing people and at the end buying beer with my card,” she added.

Italian journalist Manolo Luppichini discovered that while he was confined in Be’er Sheva and after he was back in Italy a day after his deportation – purchases were made with his credit card, which the Israeli authorities had confiscated.

One purchase was from a vending machine in Tel Aviv for about NIS 10 on June 2, he says. Another purchase, for NIS 240, was made in Gedera’s Village Market, while Luppichini himself was in Italy.

Luppichini has written a letter to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, the Foreign and Defense Ministers and to Israel’s Ambassador and consuls in Italy on the matter.

The passengers were mistreated and humiliated throughout. When they were taken on land in Ashdod, Israel, “we were treated roughly, manhandled, pushed around and we were treated with no dignity; we were mocked and laughed at. We pushed against our will by jeering soldiers who laughed and insulted us,” said Harrison.

She said that they were kept in prison vans for six hours to be taken to the airport, a journey that should take only half an hour. “Women were beaten unnecessary by soldiers, and whe they were being moved from place to place, they were being pushed around. On one occasion, they smacked two women around the head.”

She related how the Israeli soldiers at Ben Gurion airport beat up the passengers. “When we were at the airport, people were beaten for speaking. We were trying to speak to our male colleagues. I tired to speak to one of them Ken O’Keefe, who was tackled to the ground and held down by a dozen soldiers.”

The UN Security Council condemned “those acts resulting in civilian deaths,” demanded an impartial investigation of the raid, and called for the immediate release of civilians held by Israel. However the resolution was watered down by US objections. The resolution did not ask for an independent investigation.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Israel to conduct a “prompt, impartial and transparent” investigation that complies with international standards and get the facts but refused to allow international independent investigators.

US Vice President, Joe Biden, offered the US’s strongest defence of Benjamin Netanyahu Government saying, “Israel has an absolute right to deal with its security interest.”
Appearing on US TV Biden defended Israel’s actions as “legitimate”. After suggesting the cargo of aid could have been unloaded elsewhere, Biden dismissed international criticism, asking: “So what’s the big deal here? What’s the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza?”

According to the British Foreign Office, 37 British nationals, including 11 dual-nationals were passengers in the flotilla.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told the Parliament that the raid was “completely unacceptable”. Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner fell short of calling for an international inquiry.
The pair issued a joint statement after meeting Paris: “We think it is very important that there is a credible and transparent investigation. We believe there should be an international presence at minimum in that inquiry or investigation.”
Hague called on the Israeli Government to open the crossing to unfettered access for aid to enter Gaza.

At least four Scots were caught up in the raid prompting Scotland’s First Minister to dub Israel’s actions as “insupportable”.

Alex Salmond said the Scottish National Party’s opposition to Israel’s blockade of Gaza has the support of an overwhelming majority of Ministers in the Scottish Parliament: “This Parliament should speak with, certainly the overwhelming majority, in saying that the Israeli action is unacceptable, is insupportable and should stop forthwith. I’ve written to the Israeli Ambassador in the strongest possible terms.”

Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, said: “Such actions against a civilian ship are unacceptable…These actions in neutral waters raise special concerns and, undoubtedly, demand a thorough investigation.”

Turkey’s President, Abdullah Gül said, “Israel has made one of the most glaring mistakes in its history, for which it will repent”. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to hold Israel to account over its “state terror” as tens of thousands protested in Turkey against the deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid ships.

Erdoğan said, “We object to those who force the people of Gaza to live in an open-air prison… We will stand firm until the blockade on Gaza is lifted, the massacres cease and the state terror in the Middle East is accounted for.” Despite the strong rhetoric by Gül and Erdoğan; Turkey is not severing its ties with Israel.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said the country’s long economic and military ties to Israel were “on the table for discussion” but refused to promise a definitive break with Israel.

“To assume everything involving another country is stopped in an instant, to say we have crossed you out of our address book, is not the custom of our state,” said Arınç.
Turkey’s defence ministry, which is in the middle of the purchase of 10 Heron drones, said it would continue to take delivery of Israeli weapons shipments.

Muslim Aid joined many charities in calling for Israel to allow international NGOs into Gaza. A spokesman for the UK-based international relief agency told The Muslim News, “Just as charity workers and NGOs are rightfully required not to mix their humanitarian work with politics, and states should act responsibly by recognizing the work of aid workers and enabling them to reach the people to meet their legitimate humanitarian needs.”

Source

Two Activists Describe Raid and Deny Israeli Claim They Are ‘Terrorist Operatives’

Two pro-Palestinian activists who were raised in the United States, and who were on board the main ship in the flotilla challenging Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza last week when it was raided by Israeli commandos, have denied a claim by Israel’s military that they are “involved in terrorist activity.”

Fatima Mohammadi, an American lawyer from Chicago, and Ken O’Keefe, a former American marine, were both on a list of “Active Terror Operatives,” posted on the official blog of the Israel Defense Forces on Sunday. The I.D.F. statement, which named five passengers on board the Mavi Marmara “known to be involved in terrorist activity,” included factual errors about both Ms. Mohammadi and Mr. O’Keefe.

The Israeli statement misspelled Ms. Mohammadi’s first and last names, calling her “Fatimah Mahmadi”; said she is “an active member of the organization ‘Viva Palestine’ ” — she is a former employee of Viva Palestina; and called her “a United States resident of Iranian origin.” She is an American citizen who was born in Tehran in 1979 and moved — with her American mother and Iranian father — to Boise, Idaho, after the Iranian revolution that year.

In an e-mail interview on Tuesday, Ms. Mohammadi — whose Facebook page lists “Rabble Rousing” under “Activities” — told The Lede that the Israeli authorities made no such claims to her while she was in their custody, “though they were very interested in the fact that I was born in Iran.” She added:

I saw the statement on Sunday afternoon after I arrived in the U.S. and I was shocked. On one hand, it’s incredibly comical because it’s so illegitimate and unfounded, but on the other hand, I am angered that they would attempt to discredit humanitarian aid workers in such a fear-based manner.

The Israeli statement also claimed that Ms. Mohammadi “attempted to smuggle forbidden electronic components into the Gaza Strip.” Ms. Mohammadi said:

I have no idea what they’re referring to as the only electronics I had in my possession or in my bag were personal items: a camera, a video camera, and my personal phones. All electronics, including laptops, were confiscated at our arrest while on board the ship and none have been returned. Any cameras that did make their way to Turkey were either smashed or, at the very least, stripped of their memory cards.

She also said that she witnessed the deadly commando raid on the ship:

I was on the top deck (fifth deck) when the shooting began and stayed up until a cameraman about 2 meters away from me was shot twice in the arm. After I took him to the medical deck and helped there, I scurried between the second, third and fourth decks, slipping on blood all the way. Most of my time was spent on the medical deck, however, tending to the victims of the massacre. Two men died in front of me.

The I.D.F. statement called the other activist, Ken O’Keefe, “an American and British citizen.” The Irish Times reported on Tuesday: “Mr. O’Keefe, who lives in London, has carried an Irish passport since 2003 due to his grandmother, from Listowel, Co. Kerry. He has never taken British citizenship and says he renounced his U.S. citizenship in 2001.”

Mr. O’Keefe is well-known in Britain for his antiwar activism. In 2003, he  appeared on the BBC to explain why he had volunteered to serve as a human shield in Iraq to try to prevent an American attack.

On Tuesday, The Times of London explained:

The words inked into the right hand of the 1991 Gulf War veteran — “U.S. Expatriot, 01-03-01, R.I.P.” — mark the date that he renounced his U.S. citizenship after what he called a taste of military injustice. Mr. O’Keefe said that he was subjected to institutional bullying in the U.S. Marine Corps after he went over the head of his commanding officer to report an unspecified infraction.

The Israeli military’s statement said that he is “a radical anti-Israel activist and operative of the Hamas Terror organization. He attempted to enter the Gaza Strip in order to form and train a commando unit for the Palestinian terror organization.”

Mr. O’Keefe angrily denied these charges in an interview with Al Jazeera.

The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth’s Ynet News Web site reported on Monday that Mr. O’Keefe told Hurryiet, a Turkish newspaper, that he had helped to capture two of the commandos as soon as they landed on the ship. He said, “The lives of the three commandos were at our mercy — we could have done with them whatever we wanted.” He also said he had helped to disarm one of the commandos: “I took one of their guns, and another activist grabbed him. He had a 9mm gun. We didn’t use the weapons against the Israeli soldiers. I unloaded the magazine and took out the bullets — we didn’t come here to fight.”

Eventually, he added, the activists decided to release the soldiers unharmed. “They looked at us, and thought we were about to kill them, but then we let them go,” he said.

Mr. O’Keefe later gave Ynet a longer account of the raid in an interview with the Israeli newspaper.

NY Times

IDF Claim: Specific Flotilla Passangers Linked to Al-Qaeda, Hamas and Other Terror Organizations

June 14, 2010 1 comment

Specific Flotilla Passengers are Active Terror Operatives Linked to Al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Other Organizations

6 June 2010

The following passengers on board the Mavi Marmara are known to be involved in terrorist activity. The Mavi Marmara attempted to break the maritime closure on the Gaza Strip on Monday, May 31st 2010, and was boarded by Israel Navy forces.

Fatimah Mahmadi (born 1979), is a United States resident of Iranian origin, and an active member of the organization “Viva Palestine”, she attempted to smuggle forbidden electronic components into the Gaza Strip.

Ken O’Keefe (Born 1969), an American and British citizen, is a radical anti-Israel activist and operative of the Hamas Terror organization. He attempted to enter the Gaza Strip in order to form and train a commando unit for the Palestinian terror organization.

Hassan Iynasi (born 1982), a Turkish citizen and activist  in a Turkish charity organization, is known of providing financial support to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Terror organization.

Hussein Urosh, a Turkish citizen and activist in the IHH organization, was on his way to the Gaza Strip in order to assist in smuggling Al-Qaeda operatives via Turkey into the Strip.

Ahmad Umimon (born 1959), is a French citizen of Moroccan origin, and an operative of the Hamas Terrorist organization.

IDF

2 of 2 – PRESS RELEASE: IDF Accuses Ken O’Keefe of being an ‘Active Terror Operative’

Press Release Part I is here

Hello all,

I write to inform you that last night the Israeli Defence Force issued a statement identifying Ken O’Keefe as an ‘Active Terror Operative’. Ken was labelled ‘…a radical anti-Israel activist and operative of the Hamas Terror organisation.’ They went on to accuse him of ‘attempt(ing) to enter the Gaza Strip in order to form and train a commando unit for the Palestinian terror organisation.’

Ken responded by making a counter charge. From his hotel room in Istanbul this morning, he issued a statement in which he called the US, Britain and Israel ‘the greatest terrorists of our time’.

Ken attempted to enter Gaza aboard the Mavi Marmara. He intended to meet with officials from the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce in relation to his role as company director for Aloha Palestine, a social enterprise established to conduct SafeTrade between Cyprus and Gaza. Ken felt strongly that AP should not have any political undertones, and that the company would “not deviate from its commitment to trade in goods that build security and promote peace. Aloha Palestine will not trade in weapons or instruments of violence of any kind ever.”

Four other individuals were identified as terror operatives, including two Turkish citizens. There are concerns that these five individuals are now ‘marked’ as targets of future assassination attempts by Mossad, Israel’s Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations.

The IDF identified Ken O’Keefe as an American and British citizen, despite dealing with Irish consular officials in relation to his deportation from Israel.

Please call +44 7890 140 170 to arrange an interview with Ken.

Fadwa Dajani
(Mrs O’Keefe)

Ken’s statement in full:

“In response to the Israeli government’s claims that I, Ken O’Keefe, am an operative of Hamas who intended to train terrorists in Gaza, I make a counter charge; Israel and the United States, along with their British partner, are the greatest terrorists of our time. Selling, distributing and using more weapons of mass destruction than all other nations combined. When I speak of terrorism I am using the Black’s Law Dictionary definition of the word, with that definition it is clear that the United States is the number one terrorist of the 20th and 21st centuries. There are over 800,000 innocent children in Gaza that are among the victims of Israel’s terrorism, in fact the entire population of Palestine is victim of said terrorism. I do not say this as inciteful rhetoric, I say it as a moral, thinking human being who is capable of seeing the truth.

Despite the threats and slandorous charges I will not repeat the sickening pattern of rejecting the legitimate right of self defense, I wholeheartedly support that right.

As for the charges made against me, the truth lies within my actions in life. I am available for interviews and will happily discuss my associations and actions. My path in life is an open book, and one that I am blessed and proud to have walked.”

Aloha Palestine

1 of 2 – PRESS RELEASE: Ken O’Keefe Aboard the Mavi Marmara, Personal Statement & Photos

Hello all,

I write to inform you about Ken O’Keefe, who was aboard the Mavi Marmara when it was stormed by the Israeli military in the early hours of Monday 31st May, towed to Ashdod Port in Israel and all its passengers detained.

Just a brief background on Ken: He was born and raised in California and served in the US Marine Corps, being deployed to Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. After many years spent working in the field of marine conservation and green sea turtle rescues (funded by his scuba diving operation, Deep Ecology) and Hawaiian Sovereignty, he left the US shortly after the events of 911 and renounced his US citizenship, entering into the political asylum process in Holland. In 2003 he initiated and led the Human Shield Action to Iraq during the invasion. In 2008 he served as a captain and 1st mate with the Free Gaza Movement, which ended the 41 year siege of Gaza by sailing two boats into Gaza. He is currently the director of Aloha Palestine, a company he co-founded to establish a lawful passenger and cargo shipping service between Cyprus and Gaza. He joined the Freedom Flotilla to meet with the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce, exporters and others in relation to Aloha Palestine. However, while on board he took on the role of defending the ship.

Ken has appeared on a number of news programs and live news broadcasts as a political analyst since 2008.

Ken was transferred to Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday and was due to be deported by the Israeli authorities to Istanbul, then repatriated to Dublin by the Irish officials. He refused deportation and demanded that he be sent to Gaza, or the Occupied Palestinian Territories, using his Palestinian travel documents (he was awarded Palestinian citizenship when he captained one of the two Free Gaza boats into Gaza in August 2008). The Israelis acknowledged that he is a Palestinian citizen, but refused his demand on the basis that his passport was invalid since it had not been registered.

The general atmosphere in the airport on Wednesday was quite chaotic, and a scuffle broke out. Ken was bashed on the forehead and then badly beaten by the Israeli officials/police. He sustaineds a large bloody gash on his head, and some bruised ribs. When I spoke with him he had a hoarse, croaky voice. He had been put in a head lock until he nearly passed out. His aggressor released Ken at the last possible moment. Ken refused medical attention because he was not allowed access to a lawyer, nor was he being allowed to make phone calls.

On Thursday Ken’s case went before a judge who ruled that he be detained pending deportation (Ken wanted to be released without charge).

Having already been complaining of dizziness following his first beating by Israeli police, Ken was beaten again that night in his cell. Again, he has refused treatment for his injuries. Ken was unable to eat for a few days as his throat was sore following being held in a head lock on Wednesday.

He wanted to appeal his deportation and go to Gaza, but his solicitor advised him that for his own safety he should leave Israel. The longer he stayed, the greater the detriment to his health. On Friday morning he signed his Emergency Travel Documents provided to him by the Irish Consulate and was booked onto a flight to Istanbul.

Israeli officials asked him to clean himself up as his face was bloody and he was quite dishevelled. He refused, as he wanted the world to see what had happened to him. The officials threatened to keep him in custody unless he co-operated, but he called their bluff, and was allowed to board his flight to Istanbul as he was. He was met by Irish Embassy staff and a press conference. He also gave an interview with Turkish newspaper the Hurriyet, which was featured on the front page. Prior to the press conference he had issued the following statement:

“I want to discuss my role in defending the ship and disarming two Israeli commandos along with conditions and treatment while in Israeli custody, including two beatings at the hands of Israeli agents.”

Ken will depart Istanbul on Wednesday 9th June for Dublin, where he will stay for two days before returning home to his wife and baby son on Friday 11th June.

Please find attached a personal statement written by Ken in Istanbul, and below are photographs taken on his arrival to Istanbul.

O'Keefe

O'Keefe
o'keefe

Press conferences are being arranged in Dublin and London. Please contact me if you would like to interview Ken.

Best wishes,

Fadwa Dajani
(Mrs O’Keefe)

Aloha Palestine

Ken O’Keefe: ‘We, the defenders of the Mavi Marmara, are the modern example of Gandhi’s essence’

Official Statement of Ken O’Keefe


I have for many years understood that we, people of conscience, are the true holders of power in this world. Frustratingly however we have largely relinquished that power and failed to reach our full potential.  Our potential to create a better world, a just world.  Nonetheless I have conspired with others of like mind to reveal and exercise our true power.  In 2002 I initiated the TJP Human Shield Action to Iraq because I knew that the invasion of Iraq had been planned well in advance, that it was part of a ‘Global Spectrum Dominance’ agenda as laid out by the Project For A New American Century.

I knew that protests had no chance of stopping the invasion, and that largely these protests were just a way of making us feel better about the coming mass murder; by being able to say I protested against it.  With that understanding I argued that the only viable way to stop the invasion was to conduct a mass migration to Iraq.  A migration in which people from around the world, especially western citizens, would position themselves at sites in Iraq that are supposed to be protected by international law, but which are routinely bombed when it is only Iraqi, Palestinian, generally non-white, western lives who will be killed.  I felt 10,000 such people could stop the invasion, or at the very least, expose the invasion for what it was from the start, an act of international aggression, a war crime and a crime against humanity.

When our two double-decker buses travelled from London to Baghdad through Turkey, it was ever clear that the people of Turkey also could sense the power of this act, and they were the biggest participants in it.  In the end we did not get the numbers required to stop the war, with at least one million Iraqi’s dead as a result, but I remain convinced that it was within our power to prevent the invasion.  A massive opportunity lost as far as I am concerned.

In 2007 I joined the Free Gaza Movement with its plan to challenge the blockade of Gaza by travelling to Gaza by sea.  From the moment I heard of the plan I knew it could succeed and ultimately I served as a captain on the first attempt.  The Israeli government said throughout our preparation that we were no better than pirates and they would treat us as such.  They made clear we would not reach Gaza.  And still I knew we could succeed.  And we did.  Two boats with 46 passengers from various countries managed to sail into Gaza on August 23, 2010; this was the first time this had been done in 41 years.  The truth is the blockade of Gaza is far more than three years old, and yet we, a small group of conscientious people defied the Israeli machine and celebrated with tens of thousands of Gazans when we arrived that day.  We proved that it could be done.  We proved that an intelligent plan, with skilled manipulation of the media, could render the full might of the Israeli Navy useless.  And I knew then that this was only the tip of the iceberg.

So participating in the Freedom Flotilla is like a family reunion to me.  It is my long lost family whose conscience is their guide, who have shed the fear, who act with humanity.  But I was especially proud to join IHH and the Turkish elements of the flotilla.  I deeply admire the strength and character of the Turkish people, despite your history having stains of injustice, like every nation, you are today from citizen to Prime Minister among the leaders in the cause of humanity and justice.

I remember being asked during the TJP Human Shield Action to Iraq if I was a pacifist, I responded with a quote from Gandhi by saying I am not a passive anything.  To the contrary I believe in action, and I also believe in self-defence, 100%, without reservation.  I would be incapable of standing by while a tyrant murders my family, and the attack on the Mavi Marmara was like an attack on my Palestinian family.  I am proud to have stood shoulder to shoulder with those who refused to let a rogue Israeli military exert their will without a fight.  And yes, we fought.

When I was asked, in the event of an Israeli attack on the Mavi Mamara, would I use the camera, or would I defend the ship?  I enthusiastically committed to defence of the ship.  Although I am also a huge supporter of non-violence, in fact I believe non-violence must always be the first option.  Nonetheless I joined the defence of the Mavi Mamara understanding that violence could be used against us and that we may very well be compelled to use violence in self-defence.

I said this straight to Israeli agents, probably of Mossad or Shin Bet, and I say it again now, on the morning of the attack I was directly involved in the disarming of two Israeli Commandos.  This was a forcible, non-negotiable, separation of weapons from commandos who had already murdered two brothers that I had seen that day.  One brother with a bullet entering dead center in his forehead, in what appeared to be an execution.  I knew the commandos were murdering when I removed a 9mm pistol from one of them.  I had that gun in my hands and as an ex-US Marine with training in the use of guns it was completely within my power to use that gun on the commando who may have been the murderer of one of my brothers.  But that is not what I, nor any other defender of the ship did.  I took that weapon away, removed the bullets, proper lead bullets, separated them from the weapon and hid the gun.  I did this in the hopes that we would repel the attack and submit this weapon as evidence in a criminal trial against Israeli authorities for mass murder.

I also helped to physically separate one commando from his assault rifle, which another brother apparently threw into the sea.  I and hundreds of others know the truth that makes a mockery of the brave and moral Israeli military.  We had in our full possession, three completely disarmed and helpless commandos.  These boys were at our mercy, they were out of reach of their fellow murderers, inside the ship and surrounded by 100 or more men.  I looked into the eyes of all three of these boys and I can tell you they had the fear of God in them.  They looked at us as if we were them, and I have no doubt they did not believe there was any way they would survive that day.  They looked like frightened children in the face of an abusive father.

But they did not face an enemy as ruthless as they.  Instead the woman provided basic first aid, and ultimately they were released, battered and bruised for sure, but alive.  Able to live another day.  Able to feel the sun over head and the embrace of loved ones.  Unlike those they murdered.  Despite mourning the loss of our brothers, feeling rage towards these boys, we let them go.   The Israeli prostitutes of propaganda can spew all of their disgusting bile all they wish, the commandos are the murderers, we are the defenders, and yet we fought.  We fought not just for our lives, not just for our cargo, not just for the people of Palestine, we fought in the name of justice and humanity.  We were right to do so, in every way.

While in Israeli custody I, along with everyone else was subjected to endless abuse and flagrant acts of disrespect.  Women and elderly were physically and mentally assaulted.  Access to food and water and toilets was denied.  Dogs were used against us, we ourselves were treated like dogs.  We were exposed to direct sun in stress positions while hand cuffed to the point of losing circulation of blood in our hands.  We were lied to incessantly, in fact I am awed at the routineness and comfort in their ability to lie, it is remarkable really.  We were abused in just about every way imaginable and I myself was beaten and choked to the point of blacking out… and I was beaten again while in my cell.

In all this what I saw more than anything else were cowards… and yet I also see my brothers.  Because no matter how vile and wrong the Israeli agents and government are, they are still my brothers and sisters and for now I only have pity for them.  Because they are relinquishing the most precious thing a human being has, their humanity.

In conclusion; I would like to challenge every endorser of Gandhi, every person who thinks they understand him, who acknowledges him as one of the great souls of our time (which is just about every western leader), I challenge you in the form of a question.  Please explain how we, the defenders of the Mavi Marmara, are not the modern example of Gandhi’s essence?  But first read the words of Gandhi himself.

I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence…. I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour. – Gandhi

And lastly I have one more challenge. I challenge any critic of merit, publicly, to debate me on a large stage over our actions that day.  I would especially love to debate with any Israeli leader who accuses us of wrongdoing, it would be my tremendous pleasure to face off with you.  All I saw in Israel was cowards with guns, so I am ripe to see you in a new context.  I want to debate with you on the largest stage possible.  Take that as an open challenge and let us see just how brave Israeli leaders are.

Source

O'Keefe

Gaza flotilla survivors recount ordeals during Israel’s assault

Tue, 08 Jun 2010 03:30:30 GMT

Press TV

The testimonials of activists onboard the Gaza aid Freedom Flotilla, which was attacked by Israel, have revealed disturbing evidence about the extent of brutality used by the Israeli forces.

“The ship became pool of blood,” one passenger recalled. “They came into the part where the women were, soldiers dressed in black and with gigantic weapons as if they were in a war.”

The findings from the autopsies performed on the nine Turkish men killed onboard Mavi Marmara were telling: They were shot a total of 30 times, with five killed by gunshot wounds to the head.

One survivor said based on his calculations during the bloodiest part of the assault, Israeli commandos shot one person every minute. Hence, a proposal by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for an international inquiry has been suggested, though Israel has rejected the call.

The following is the transcript of Press TV’s interview with three of the flotilla attack survivors. They are Managing Director of Aloha Palestine CIC Ken O’Keefe in Istanbul, Human Rights Activist Tauqir Sharif in London and Media Officer of the National Committee for Lifting the Gaza Siege Nabil Hallak in Lebanon

Ken O'Keefe

Press TV: Ken O’Keefe, can you please recount your ordeal?

Ken O’Keefe: Well, it felt very much like the combat situations that I have been in the Marine Corp in the first [Persian] Gulf war. It was very clear from the start that the Israelis were not coming in any other way but with lethal forces. I saw one body very quickly and ultimately it was involved in disarming two of the Israeli commandos taking a pistol away from one of them, ultimately taking the bullets out of that weapon which were live rounds. They were real bullets not rubber-coated bullets and taking the bullets and separating them from the weapons, hoping that they might be used as evidence in future trials and also removing the assault rifle from another soldier. It got bloodier and bloodier and by the time we had control of the three Israeli soldiers, I had seen four dead bodies plus many injured. So it was a combat except that we weren’t armed.

Press TV: Ken, you were seen in pictures broadcast all around the world with your face covered in blood. Tell us what exactly happened when you were in Israeli jails?

Ken O’Keefe: The Israelis, the whole time from the beginning to the end, treated us like dogs. I mean really, the whole way through. And I just don’t take kindly the bullying tactics and the intimidation, I feel a duty if somebody is treating you that way, to do your best to let them know that you are not getting the better of you and they don’t like that kind of stuff. They want to feel that they can dominate you in every way. Even though they have complete control over you physically, you can still maintain control of your mind and you show them that you are not fearful of them and make clear that they only have control of your body which is the least important thing. I don’t think they like it very much. So eventually one of them cracked me over the head at the airport, Ben Gurion airport, they got me into a chokehold and seconds I came within seconds of blacking out completely, they got me in the ribs, hit me in the ribs, kicked me in the head and then I got another beating in the detention center at Ben Gurion airport the night before I left. I guess there is no real surprise. I’m just glad that no more people were beaten like some of us were.

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Press TV: Nabil Hallak, you have just recently returned. First, your ordeal, and more importantly, were you a witness when Israel used ammunition against the helpless activists?

Nabil Hallak: To tell you the truth, it is the time that people should realize that there is no way that the Israeli fibs and lies in order to divert the facts, what happened is yes, they used live ammunition with the intention of killing from the first second when they attacked. But they have been caught by surprise instead that they have been using this tactic with us, since that the guys with us they didn’t accept that they will be attacked in international waters from an aggression from the Israeli forces that were fully armed to the teeth, and our guys with hardly even having a stick. So, for that they have to defend the women that we have, and the elderly people which they didn’t really respect. So for that, the people, they had to stand and protect to defend themselves for goodness’ sake in international waters. We were not attacking, we have been attacked.

Press TV: Taquir Sharif, tell us if you experienced any abuses or witnessed any abuses.

Tauqir Sharif: We suffered abuse from the start, you know, I remember my recollection of events is we were praying ‘Fajr Sallah’ (morning prayer) and all of a sudden they attacked us when we were praying and we heard a shot, somebody saying “they’re here” and the next thing you know we saw flash grenades you know, all sorts of materials being flown onto the ship. People had been shot from the beginning and we were trying our best to get more or less as many injured down from the top deck into safety. And we suffered abuse all the way through and were cable-tied for 13 hours many of us, the males, we had our cable tied behind our backs and we were put in stress position. I have still got the marks on my wrists. Even the awful prison, while we were in the port of Ashdod to the prison of Beersheva we suffered many abuses, as Ken said they tried to abuse us but we remained strong. We worked for the humanity. When you fight for truth, nothing will stop you.

Press TV: Ken, you said while you were in Israeli custody you were subjected to “endless” abuse, in one case, to the point of blacking out: Tell us more about that?

Ken O’Keefe: Well, there is such a long list, anything from denied water, from being denied food, being denied access to a lawyer, being denied access to your family to make a call, being lied to continuously. [Being told] You are going to do this; you are going to do that. Being intimidated, being stared at. Having elderly people abused and disrespected, separated from their doctor. I mean, we can go on and on; being kicked, beaten, having a dog bite you. That’s not a complete list. There is much more and aside from of course being killed and seriously injured.

All I can say is I am really happy that the world is finally starting to realize the power that we people have. It’s not up to anyone else. The United Nations would not be talking about a resolution about the blockade if it weren’t for what we did.

The United States would be talking about the blockade unsustainable if it weren’t for what we did. None of this stuff will be happening. None other governments of the world, not the United Nations, none of this would be happening except for those of us on that ship who were so honored and so blessed. Those of us on that ship applied the word of Gandhi and I challenge everyone in this world to look at what Gandhi said because Gandhi made clear that between cowardice and violence he would choose violence. We acted only in violence because of self defense. That’s it. If we weren’t being attacked there would be no need for us to act in a violent way at all. None. We were defending our lives. We were defending that corridor. More importantly, we were defending the means of Palestinians who have been ignored for decades. And we were defending the rights of people around the world and justice and peace in general. So, we had every right to defend ourselves and it’s clear to anyone who’s a thinking moral person who are the murderers and who are the defenders of justice.

Press TV: Nabil Hallak, six of the nine activists killed in Monday’s attack on the aid convoy were shot by a single Israeli commando who is now being considered for a medal of honor. How does that make you feel?

Nabil Hallak: This is ridiculous, really. I mean it’s disgraceful to address the people by nominating such criminal as an honored position. But the thing is we had any intention of using violence we could use the weapons in the hands of activists against them. And then they would lose a grave loss but don’t. This is not our intention anyway. So instead we are purely in a humanitarian mission while they’re in killing mission. And that’s one of their killers. And they’re now giving him a medal of honor for that, which is not a surprise really for us. This is their culture. This is their education. And this is hour culture and education. Bu as Ken said, this shows the power and determination of the humanitarian activists with what they really believe in even when it is going to cost lives. At the same time, the Israelis are ready to oppose any humanitarian aids by killing activists for going to save the children of Gaza.

Press TV: Ken O’Keefe, if Israel has nothing to hide, why is it rejecting an international investigation as suggested by the UN?

Ken O’Keefe: Well, because they are so used to it I imagine. I mean how many times has Israel committed blatant crimes that anybody with their eyes open would recognize and there’s nothing done about it.

It seems as if Israel is very used to impunity that allows to mass murder as routine part of their policy. And who can deny the fact that this has been so long that’s the norm. the world has done nothing the governments have done nothing. And what’s unique, and what’s most important about it is this again the fact that people, 600 people on that ship and supported it in a whatnot. Six hundred people. The next flotilla is going to have much more than 600 people. And I reckon it must have what one or people from every single nation on this planet on the next flotilla. Plus colonized people from all around the world so that the entire world is represented on the next one and the next time if need be, if Israel wants to do it again. Then let them kill more people, and let them expose themselves once more for the mass murderers that they are carrying themselves out as and who’s the defenders.

And the fact is, this is what makes it so special. And as much as I believe in nonviolence and I so much believe in nonviolence, it was right. It was to defend ourselves, and to use force where necessary to defend ourselves. There is nothing wrong with that. And in British-occupied India, Gandhi called for and the people under Gandhi applied the same tactics. This is a modern version of Gandhi.

Press TV: Tauqir Sharif, one passenger has said, based on his calculations during the bloodiest part of the assault, Israeli commandos shot one person every minute. Was there a time which that appeared to happen?

Tauqir Sharif: Yeah, definitely. There was a lot of adrenalin around. I was initially trying to film. Then we had so many heavy casualties I had to put my camera aside because so many people were injured that we tried to resist for a while and the emphasis has to be put that we were not the aggressors we were in international waters, we didn’t break any international law. They are the aggressors. They tried to board our ship and we tried to resist. It’s like somebody tries to break into your house you are not going to invite them in and let them take everything. It is very hard, people from every nation totally different people from different walks of life. This is very important. Anybody can get involved; and, Insha’allah, in the next convoy more people will get involved and represent more nationalities. Yeah, many people were injured.

Press TV: Nabil Hallak, how far is the civic international community is ready to go with building this huge momentum which has become Israel’s nightmare?

Nabil Hallak: Actually the purpose out of this mission from day one when the organizations started for that is meant to be a significant that will lead to a turning point. And that’s what we did achieve actually, and that’s how we see the international public opinion. And even from the closest allies they criticized the Israelis behavior. And they called for the lift of the siege of Gaza. Since we opened the door and the people realized all over the world that it’s a necessity now to open it wider in order to open the siege for good. And not only that is to recognize that the Israelis’ behave is condemned and unacceptable by every respect for the human values and for the human rights. So I think this is a new era now that Israel has to deal with it.

Press TV: Ken, now that we’ve heard about your accounts, will you take legal action against Israel?

Ken O’Keefe: There’s a lot of people with great legal capabilities, I work with Daniel Mancover, a man who is the champion of the universal jurisdiction and I’ll cooperate with him and other who are going to pursue that but as I have said already I am much more interested in what a common person, the working class person, the oppressed people, colonized people, people from around the world who have been sick and tired of the inaction and the shameless collaboration in the blockade and the oppression of the Palestinian people. Egypt opening up Rafah, thank God for that, how long has it been that Egypt has been collaborating directly with Israel only because of what we had been doing have shamed them so badly into opening up Rafah, finally. That is the power we have, can you imagine if we have a flotilla ten times stronger this time?

Does anyone think that if we do that then Israel is going to do the same thing? Or the blockade be done with and over with? I believe 100 percent it will be over done with. And it’s not only that we can affect justice in may areas. We can affect justice in Iraq which because if there’s going to be any justice in this world, the United States needs to be facing war crimes charges for what it’s done in Iraq. It’s got a million dead Iraqis. We need to employ the international law at and live in a big time but the only way it’s going to happen is we people make it sell. No one is going to make it but us. So let us realize our power and make it happen.

Press TV: Tauqir Sharif, will you take legal action against Israel?

Tauqir Sharif: As Ken said, we are cooperating with many people, with the Turkish government themselves and holding investigation. We are screened. People and psychologists talk to us as many people faced trauma after the things that they have seen. That’s not our main objective; our main goal is to lift the siege of Gaza. So our work and efforts is to do whatever we can to remove the siege.

Press TV: Same question, will you take legal action against Israel?

Nabil Hallak: That would be the inquiry of the Turkish behind it. As a witness, we can give testimony. But our aim here is not to bring anybody or drag anything. We are here to eliminate the unjust entirely and totally. That’s our aim.

Press TV: Ken, there seems to be an indication that there is going to be an easing of the siege after the aid flotilla attack, what is your reaction when you hear things like that?

Ken O’Keefe: Well, that’s because of people but for the last two years, since I was a captain on the Free Gaza journey that succeeded, the first one on August 23rd 2008. since that time I have been working on a company that would do trade with Palestine. I can see clearly that they need the aid. Anyone can see that but ultimately, nobody wants to live on handouts, everybody wants to live a dignified life that they can provide for themselves and for their family. And in order for that to happen, the blockade will need to end. Trade would need to begin; fair and safe trade. And with that the economy will be rebuilt. And a real and viable economic situation can be revived and the Palestinians people can once again stand ob their own two feet. And of course they are well capable of it all. I have once I have . I can see Gaza. It’s a pile of rubble right now. I see it in a few years, in ten years rebuilt magnificent; a testament to the well-aware people around the world to turn it around in great justice. I see that day and I really going to work on that day. And I am really ready to work with everyone who is serious on this matter. And I know that we can make that a reality not just in Gaza but throughout Palestine.

Press TV: Tauqir Sharif, many say this has affected Israel’s image, what is your impression?

Tauqir Sharif: Well, of course, they are the ones who have painted their own picture. This is something that we have known for a long time. It’s not been hidden. The only difference now is because nine of our brothers have been martyred, this has come to the world stage. Actually, it’s quite sad that it took nine of our brothers to get martyred and many international people to be injured for awareness to be raised. People are dying in Palestine every day. Four brothers were shot I think it was yesterday in Gaza on the beach and there was no uproar and no mass demonstration. So for the Palestinians people this is the norm. and I mean Israel have painted their own picture. Everything that occurred on that ship is the testimony of the kind of people that they are. While I was in prison I tried to interact with the soldiers and people who were doing their national services. I asked them “do you get sad about the loss of life?” and many of them couldn’t answer the question. And this is what we stand for. It’s about humanity, about the freedom of Gaza.